Most amateur and new Betta fish owners will have never heard of daphnia.
And this is a huge disappointment. These little crustaceans are an excellent way of keeping your fish healthy and happy for years.
But what exactly are daphnia, and are they good for your betta fish?
Daphnias are small crustaceans (planktonic in size), and they are a common food and supplement to a betta’s diet. These little guys are high in protein and fiber, making them perfect for a pet betta with limited access to their natural prey.
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What Is A Daphnia?
Daphnia is a small crustacean (kind of like snails or lobster on a much smaller scale). It belongs to the planktonic genus in terms of taxonomy.
They live in both fresh and saltwater and are natural prey for the carnivorous betta fish.
Don’t expect these little guys to be large. In fact, they only come in the 1-5 millimeter range of size.
Betta fish are more than happy to eat them at this size. They won’t even need to bite at them to break them up.
Fun Fact: Daphnias are also called water fleas because of how they jump and move around in the water.
In the wild, some species of daphnia will develop defense mechanisms to prevent being eaten too much.
This may include hooks and spines to make eating them more painful.
But the ones you’ll find at pet stores and to feed to your betta don’t have this. They’re easy pickings.
Daphnia is a common fish food for many tropical pet fish, so finding them isn’t hard.
Most of the time, you’ll find them in either live or frozen form, though freeze-dried is becoming more popular.
Some serious tropical fish owners like to keep them in tanks because they have a unique hyper-sensitivity to toxicity in water.
If the daphnia starts to struggle, then you’ll have an early indication something is wrong with your water parameters.
But unless you’re breeding them and keeping them in a separate container, they get expensive as live food.
Bettas and other tropical fish love them and will eat them up every chance they get. So you’ll go through quite a bit of them.
Is Daphnia Good For Betta Fish?
As a live food and natural prey for the betta fish, daphnia is an excellent choice for their healthy diet.
Live foods, in general, are much higher in good nutrients your pet needs.
One of the critical nutrients for a betta is protein. Daphnia is high in protein and provides what they often don’t get from subpar and general fish food.
They also provide good amounts of fiber to keep your betta fish regular in the defecation department. (More on this later!)
Finally, they also provide some stimulation. It’s easy for a betta to get bored being in a tank by itself or even with a few other fish.
Feeding them live food, like daphnia, will give them something to do and hunt. Betta fish food is fine in terms of health, but it’s pretty boring for them to eat.
Any serious betta owner should consider getting some daphnia if only to supplement their fish’s balanced diet on occasion.
How Much Daphina Should Betta Fish Eat?
When feeding bettas live food, it’s tough to determine how much they’ve eaten.
In this case, estimate between 1.5-2.0 grams of daphnia in the tank throughout the day.
Don’t go overboard with them, but if they’re live, the betta should stop when it’s full.
Make sure you watch and take note of the betta feces to ensure they’re not constipated.
Don’t be afraid to adjust the amount based on the size of your betta and how much they eat.
Live daphnia can live in the tank with few problems.
With frozen or freeze-dried daphnia, you’ll have more control.
Always keep two rules in mind:
- Defer to the directions on the package
- Feed a betta all it wants in a minute or two, then remove the leftover food
Even most frozen daphnia has more nutrition than general betta foods.
It also releases daphnia scents, stimulating the fish’s instincts.
It’s not as good as live, but it’s still a pretty solid choice.
How Often Can Bettas Eat Daphnia?
Treat daphnia like any other fish food.
A betta fish needs to eat 1-2 times per day. You can read more on how often to feed betta fish at the link.
Daphnia is like any other fish food.
If you don’t want to spend too much on daphnia, though, I suggest using them as a feed once every 2-3 days.
This way, your betta still gets the nutritional benefits and stimulation of eating live food without the high costs of using them as the staple food.
Daphnia And Betta Fish Constipation
Constipation is one of the most common health issues with betta fish.
You’d be surprised how often their little digestive tracts get blocked by food.
When this happens, their stomach will swell, and they won’t eat much or any food.
If it gets bad enough, the blockage may push on their swim bladder and cause them to swim sideways.
This is when you know it’s bad.
General signs of betta fish constipation include:
- Swelling stomach
- Spitting out food
- Lack of energy and movement
- Swimming sideways
- Lack of feces in the tank
- Pale coloring
- Stress stripes
Experts sometimes suggest Daphnia to help fix this problem. But does it work?
Yes…most of the time.
Daphnia is high in fiber and other nutrients, which act as a gentle and mild laxative for your fish.
If the constipation isn’t too bad, feeding them a daphnia for a couple of days should clear it right up.
If you feed them daphnia once every few days anyway, it’ll help prevent constipation too.
But if the blockage is so bad they won’t eat, it may be too late for such a simple trick.
At this point, consult with a vet for further advice.
One thing they may suggest is the shelled pea method.
Have your betta fast for 24 hours (up to 3 days at the MOST). Then, add a single, shelled pea to the tank.
As it dissolves (or they eat it), it’ll help pass the feces and get them up and running again.
Daphnia may be substituted for a pea initially, but if it’s too bad, go with the pea.
Prevention is the best way to deal with constipation.
Common causes of constipation include:
- Improper diet
- Low fiber in their diet
- Improper water conditions
Can Betta Fish Fry Eat Daphnia?
The jury is out on exactly when to give betta fry daphnia, but everyone agrees that daphnia is a good food choice.
Some people suggest live daphnia right out the gate. The little baby bettas will nibble them gradually and get the high levels of protein they need to grow.
Some people think this is too early and suggest waiting until they are around 3-4 weeks old.
We suggest waiting, as there is no risk to waiting, and there may be some risk by giving them daphnia too early.
Either way, live food is the way to go with fry.
Don’t consider feeding them frozen or freeze-dried daphnia until you’re sure they’re big enough to swallow the food whole.
Best Daphnia-Betta Feeding Methods
All daphnia is suitable for bettas, but not all forms of daphnia are equal.
In this section, let’s look at the pros and cons of each method.
Live daphnia provides the best nutrition option for your betta.
If you are 100% dedicated to their health and don’t care about anything else regarding this, it’s the best option.
With live bettas, either buy them live from a breeder (which may be tough to find) or keep them and raise them yourself.
We’ll cover this topic a little more later on.
Warning! If you don’t get your daphnia from a reputable source, it could have dangerous illnesses in it, which it will then pass to your betta.
- Best protein and fiber
- Engages betta in hunting them
- Keeps you aware of the tank’s toxicity
- More fun to watch the bettas eat
- Costs a lot more if you buy them live
- Requires more work to keep them alive
- Requires a LOT more work to keep and breed them yourself
Frozen food and daphnia are simply dead and frozen live crustaceans.
They have almost all of the nutrients of the live version without the difficulty of keeping them.
Some fish keepers prefer to thaw them in other warm water a bit before feeding, but this isn’t necessary for everyone.
They are priced cheaper than live daphnia by quite a bit, and they are widely available.
The scents from frozen daphnia will still be fairly strong, though it’s not as engaging for a betta to eat as live.
Overall, frozen daphnia is a good compromise option.
- Moderately priced
- Offer good nutrition (protein and fiber especially)
- Still trigger scent instincts
- Easy to find
- Not as engaging
- Not nearly as affordable as regular fish food
- May require thawing out first
Freeze-dried food like daphnia is the most affordable option at the cost of lower nutrition and engagement.
They are still a step (and price point) above normal betta food. But they are definitely below the frozen and live options.
But they are super easy to use in feeding your betta! These are a good option if you’d like to get some for your betta.
- Most affordable
- Good nutrition
- Easy to use
- Less nutritious than live daphnia
- Doesn’t trigger hunting instinct as much
Keeping And Raising Your Own Daphnia At Home
One way to offset the higher costs of live daphnia as food is to raise and keep them at your own home.
This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s really not. While it’s certainly more work than simply buying frozen ones, many people find it quite rewarding.
My oldest son (the betta fish lover) and I looked into it for our home, and while we haven’t pulled the trigger yet, here’s what we’ve found in caring for them.
First, you need a container (or two) to culture them in.
Many owners will use two containers: one for harvesting and one for growing. Then, they’ll just keep swapping between them.
Aquariums make the perfect containers, but you don’t have to use these. Daphnias are pretty tough and used to living in a variety of environments.
First, locate a reputable fish breeder near you. Don’t go out into the water and look for some on your own.
These may have parasites, harmful bacteria, and other issues.
Keep the water temperature between 65-70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C). This allows for optimal activity and growth.
A lot of folks keep them in their basement, which is usually around the right temperature.
Hotter or colder temps aren’t a big deal, but their growth will slow down here.
A normal, cool room temperature is acceptable.
Use fresh, clean water. It’s even OK to use local, natural water.
But if you do, let the water rest to allow any trapped harmful gasses to leave.
If using distilled or spring water, add some bacteria starter before adding the daphnia.
Feeding And Keeping Daphnia
Once your water is set, let it sun in the sun for 2-3 days before adding the daphnia.
You’re looking for it to get a little green with some algae, though it isn’t strictly needed.
Once you have green water and it’s conditioned (remember, chlorine is bad!), put in your daphnia.
Add some food yeast to help them eat and grow.
Every 8 days, they reproduce, so don’t be surprised if the tank starts looking cloudy immediately.
Harvest your daphnia after this burst.
Bigger tanks do better with this betta prey. Some people keep two 20-gallon tanks to manage the population.
Add one cup or more of green, “algae-fied” water every other week to keep things growing. I use a cup of my betta aquarium water as I do my partial changes.
Some keepers use these tanks for all sorts of live food options, including other popular betta prey like brine shrimp.
If combining animals in a tank, ensure you find the middle ground of temperature so they all live and thrive.
At least long enough for you to feed them to your betta!
Bettas Will Eat Up Daphnia Like Crazy!
Daphnias are the perfect choice of live food for bettas because of their high protein and high fiber content.
Frozen and freeze-dried daphnia works well, too, and saves some money. But raising them live on your own isn’t too difficult if you know where to start.
For a complete guide on betta foods and what foods are actually good for them, check out our article at the link.
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